Mountain Biking in Fruita, Colorado

Colorado's answer to Moab, Fruita is a mecca for mountain bikers and dirtbags of every variety
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May 12, 2015 | By Whitney James

"Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of riding a bike"
John F. Kennedy

May is National Bike Month, making it a pretty cool opportunity to send our Ambassadors and Correspondents to the furthest reaches of their daily rides to show how the humble bicycle can take you a lot further than the office on your daily commute. First we followed Huckberry Ambassador and professional photographer Camilla Rutherford as she biked through New Zealand's back trails; next up is Whitney James, who heads to Colorado's mountain biking mecca to shred some of the finest single track west of the Mississippi.

f you've never heard it before, it's a hard word to pronounce: Fruita. It's definitely hard to pronounce for your mom, especially when she’s worried about where her only child is headed on a mountain bike adventure with only a first aid kit. F-R-U-I-T-A. Fruit with an A, Mom. Just — Mom, FRUIT. A.

If you have heard of the place, you already know it’s the premier mountain biking destination in all of Colorado. If you haven’t heard of the place, you’re welcome. Here's our guide to where to camp, what to pack, and why there's a T-Rex in the town square.

Fruita has two iconic symbols — a mountain biker and a dinosaur (and sometimes the two epically combined to produce a dino riding a bike). The silo marking the Fruita exit on I-70 shows both, and you’ll soon see a T-Rex in the town square.

Fun fact? It’s not just a tourist trap. An almost entirely intact Brontosaurus was dug up nearby in the early 1900s, and is still to this day considered one of the world's finest archeological finds. Tons of other dinosaur remains were also found, all of the Fruitaden and Fruitafosser genus, inspiring the town’s name.

History aside, you’re probably more interested in how to actually get to Fruita. It’s a four-and-a-half hour drive from Denver or a quick jaunt from Grand Junction if you fly in on a prop plane.

Once you arrive, you’ll want to pitch your tent just outside of Fruita on 18 Road, right at the foot of the staggering Book Cliffs. You’ll likely spot the free campsites in a recessed patch of desert first, but continue on to the twenty or so paid sites nestled in the piñon pines. You’ll be thankful for the protection if and when the wind starts to blow. 

There are three unique trail systems that have Fruita rivaling Moab. First up, the Book Cliffs themselves. Built specifically for bikers, these loops provide lots of flow and even more smiles. Here, you can get in a couple of laps before the sun goes down on Friday and roll right back into camp. 

The next day, drive to the Kokopelli Loops four miles west of Fruita. Similar in difficulty — everything ranges from beginner to advanced — these trails are sandier and will give you some insane views of the Colorado River. This is perfect if it’s rained and 18 Road is a sticky mess!

Once you’ve had your fill of flow, check out the Tabeguache Trails (pronounced "tabby-wash" and known as the Lunch Loops by people who can't pronounce it) across the highway from Grand Junction. These are significantly more technical and rocky, but you’ve been honing your skills all weekend.

Fruita might just be the car camping hub of Western Colorado. Stash your big tent, camp chairs, and deluxe cooler in the car and hit the road. Firewood, groceries, ice, beer, and bike maintenance gear can all be found right in town.
If you’re flying in or feel like testing a top-notch bike, visit Over the Edge Sports. They’ll hook you up with $4K Ripleys and Bronsons (women’s models available too) and have you rolling in ten minutes flat.

Whatever you do, make sure you stop by Hot Tomato Cafe and Pizzeria for pizza after your ride, an eclectic spot that's always hosting live music and lots of locals. Looking to branch out from New Belgium Brewery's beer from nearby Fort Collins? Visit Copper Club Brewing Company for craft brews such as the 18 Road IPA. Visit the Dinosaur Journey Museum before you leave town, or hop across I-70 to check out the Utah-esque Colorado National Monument. You might just find you need to take a sick day on Monday. [H]

Whitney does marketing at Outside GO, loves donuts, and is a total endorphin junkie based in Boulder, CO. 
Follow along with her on Instagram

Images ©: 1, 2, 5, 6, 8; Whitney James. 3, 4, 7, 9, 10; Bryan Rowe